Interim Director of UCR’s Academic Resource Center (ARC) and Assistant Vice Provost of the Office of Undergraduate Education Christine Ann Victorino reports that the center is planning a 40 percent decrease in drop-in tutoring sessions in favor of an appointment-based system for the upcoming spring quarter. But ASUCR senators Sanam Rashidi and Jessica Moncayo are concerned that this may lead to a reduction in upper-division course tutoring and work hours for student employees, since the ARC’s budget has not changed since 2007.
“To clarify, there is no planned reduction for ARC services in 2014-15. We actually hope to increase ARC services, such as Supplemental Instruction (SI),” said Victorino. “I think in the upcoming quarter, we’re trying to pilot new tutoring models: a combination of the drop-in tutoring and then trying a new, advanced sign-up.”
The ARC offers a variety of academic services, which includes but is not limited to: daily drop-in tutoring, where students may sign up for immediate and short-term assistance with their class assignments, typically lasting 15 minutes; and an appointment-based system that allows students to sign up beforehand for a 30-minute tutoring session for that day.
The upcoming changes are being prompted by a 2010-2012 report, “Tutorial Assistance Program,” which was previously released by the UCR Office of Undergraduate Education in Sept. 2013. The evaluation revealed that drop-in tutoring sessions were popular for students, but had little impact on their GPAs, since most students only made a couple of tutoring visits throughout a given quarter.
Victorino said, “If you just come in once or twice a week, you’re just getting a Band-Aid,” about temporarily visits and hopes to encourage students to attend more frequent tutoring sessions. “It may seem like it’s a reduction in traditional drop-in tutoring … but we were going to see about changing half of the model to make it more effective for students.”
Seeking different approaches to tutoring, Victorino says the allotted number of tutoring hours are expected to stay the same, but may be apportioned differently between appointment-based and drop-in tutoring. She also noted that the projected pay increase of 3 percent for student employees will not affect the original budget; the raises will be taken out of carryover reserve funds, which addresses unexpected changes to funding.
On the other hand, Senator Moncayo painted a different picture in regards to the ARC budget. “The problem is the demand (for tutoring) is increasing, but the budget is staying the same,” lamented Moncayo. “Right now, we can try to tighten our budget and be creative with it but in the future, it’s probably going to hurt us, especially if we want to increase the student (tutoring) programs,” she said. “If our school is changing, then our logistics need to change as well.”
ARC currently holds the same budget that it did in 2007 — an estimated $1.3 million last reported in 2011-12 — says Moncayo, which leaves her to question whether or not the center’s tutoring services can continue to grow and maintain the same level of services in the future.
Moncayo touched upon her experience as an engineering student and how she wants to increase the number of upper division tutoring classes to better the services offered to students. She also said that student tutors, averaging about 60 per year, reported an increase in GPA, from 3.56 to 3.57, after working at the ARC.
In reaction to the recent news, fourth-year chemistry major and undergraduate tutor at UCR Eranthi Jayawardena, expressed concerns about the expected changes, which include providing more tutoring for lower-division classes. “The funding issue is mainly targeted to our (drop-in) program,” she said. “These decisions are going to exclude certain parts of the student body because a lot of students come to get our services so I don’t think it’s fair … to take that away from the student body.”
Victorino sought to address ongoing concerns and possible miscommunication by saying, “We’re not cutting hours, we’re keeping the same number of hours whether or not there is a pay increase.” She says the ARC will continue to ensure support for the five biggest and most-demanded subjects: math, English, chemistry, physics and biology.
Billy Avila, a fourth-year applied math major and ARC math student tutor, explained the major changes that are expected to occur in his area of specialty. “(Through a new pilot program), we’re going to focus strictly on the 9A and 9B students,” he said. “We’re going to dedicate a full column of hours for them to sign up for and we’re going to have another standby tutor that’s going to tutor the rest of the math subjects.”
Avila also said that they will keep track of students’ progress by encouraging them to sign a contract for about 10 visits, which would give those students priority when signing up for future tutoring sessions as an incentive to return. He explains that there is greater emphasis in tutoring lower-division math courses because those are the most demanded math classes.
“Well I don’t mind focusing on a specific class as long as it ensures students’ success, but with the other sciences … and the humanities, it’s kind of hard because we’re going to have to turn a lot of students down,” he said. “They’re only going to be able to help maybe four through 12 students a day (due to the appointment system), so that’s going to be a dramatic decrease of students that they’re able to help.”
The 2010-12 evaluation report also highlighted the fact that SI had a positive impact on students’ grades in historically challenging courses — including high rates of students who received D or F grades or withdrew from the class.
Victorino also expressed the difficulties of having a constrained budget and said, “I think that everyone has limited budgets and with the budget we have, we really want to offer as … many effective programs as possible.”
Since student registration fees go to fund the center, the ARC administration is attempting to determine which programs are most effective and expand existing pilot initiatives such as Early Assist and SI programs. The senators, campus administration and student tutors share the mutual goal of finding additional funding for the overall program.
“These programs exist,” Victorino said. “I feel like a lot of students might know about it in their first year if they happen to be part of a learning community … but if they didn’t hear about it in their first year, sometimes they don’t ever hear about it.”
Receiving an 85 percent approval rating from tutees, the ARC provides a variety of services, such as academic intervention, writing support and computer labs, which are available for students to use. Victorino reported that the center has been without a permanent director for over six months, but is expected to get one on April 1.
Kora Kowk, a second-year biology major, threw her support behind the drop-in system as opposed to the increase in appointments. “Although I only go to the drop-in session occasionally, I found it really helpful because sometimes I’d only have one or two questions to ask, which would take the tutor under ten minutes to explain,” she said. “I’m skeptical about the appointment-based system because it could create a lot of blank slots when the student does not have too many questions to ask during the appointment.”
This week, senators are planning on looking at two controversial resolution bills. The first resolution is titled, “Divestment from Companies that Profit from Apartheid”; the second one is titled, “A Bill in Support of Positive Steps Toward a Negotiated Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” Senators expressed concerns about the possibility of passing two resolutions that can contradict one another.
The main point in the divestment resolution urges UCR to reexamine its asset holdings in various companies that provide equipment and technology to the Israeli military that reinforces the alleged apartheid system in Israel.
The second resolution requests that UCR seek investment opportunities from the campus’ endowment and finances department to strengthen Israeli and Palestinian cooperation in pursuit of a two-state resolution.